Petition launched to increase Mississippi cigarette tax

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Two businessmen are petitioning to let Mississippi voters decide whether to increase the state tobacco tax and designate the revenue for Medicaid.

Clarksdale attorney and restaurateur Bill Luckett and Jackson advertising consultant Rory Reardon filed an initiative Thursday in the secretary of state's office.

They have a year to gather about 90,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Gov. Haley Barbour said this week that he'll ask the 2009 Legislature to increase the cigarette excise tax, which is now 18 cents a pack.

Barbour proposes adding 24 cents a pack on premium brands and 43 cents on off-brands. The ballot initiative would set Mississippi's cigarette tax at half the national average on each May 30. Current figures would put the state tax at 59.5 cents a pack.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)